Prove your humanity

Score: 8/10

Standout Tracks: Soon (Piano), Slow Mover (Piano), Pasta (Piano)

Angie McMahon is back, with a stripped-down adaption of last year’s ARIA top 5 debut Salt. This time McMahon crystalises the more sombre reflections of 2020 in the form of Piano Salt, a stripped rendition of arguably her finest works from her first album. Also included is a rework featuring Canadian indie-folk singer Leif Vollebekk alongside covers of iconic hits from both Bruce Springsteen and Lana Del Rey.

The EP opens with a lush and immersive piano interpretation of fan favourite, Soon, a song about heartbreak and finding “real love someday”. It is a beautifully written track that immediately shows how personal and professional her writing chops are right out of the gate.

Next up is perhaps the highlight of the entire EP, a piano led rendition of her bombastic hit Slow Mover. A clear gem on her debut now shines like a diamond in piano form, and for a different reason. Where the original has its punchiness and slick guitar licks, this version feels much more intimate, like a girl alone at a piano, in an empty room that’s slowly falling apart. Showing a whole new different side to the song, as if she’s begging to be set on fire, just to feel something from a lover. Instead of the rapturous dare of an untouchable woman within the original production this piano led version feels so human and so genuine with much more sorrow. It takes great skill to be able to convey two different emotions from a song with just a tweak in the instrumentation and vocal demonstration. She should be very proud to have a song like this under her belt.

The seven-track extended play glides around in melodic piano driven soundscapes, buoyed up by McMahon’s captivating and immersive lyrics. The real star is McMahon’s vocal ability against the accompanying piano and other little production quirks, like the freeing whistle’s in Springsteen cover The River. A nice ode to a clear inspiration of her style, which is very reflective of the classic rock acts the likes of Elton John chiming away these beautifully written ballads into a piano.

The only time the footing really falters here is in the Lana Del Rey cover of ‘Born to Die’ where it lacks the real punch and compelling drive of the original. Without the grandiosity, it is almost as if she doesn’t believe what she’s saying. However, it is a beautifully sung cover that builds into something very sobering towards the end and the instrumentation is beautifully captivating. Especially in the last quarter where the lighter airy notes are introduced with the melancholy of McMahon’s vocals as she crones “we were born to die”, and for a brief moment, you believe it.

The EP ends aptly with the piano rendition of Pasta, a very stripped down, and very personal highlight that wraps the body of work in an assuring ribbon of uncertainty. Something that would only make sense in this mad and wonderfully bizarre year. Everything, from the production, to the diction on this track is spectacular.

For the most part Piano Salt is real and compelling, beautifully emphasising the rich storytelling and vocal expression McMahon possesses that may have been overshadowed on the original Salt. Her approach to music is very reminiscent of Joni Mitchell, or Florence and The Machine. The EP is lyrically heavy, twisting beautiful tales of love and heartbreak, sorrow and guilt, and about the passing of time.

Some of her strongest work, I look forward to hearing where she goes from here.

Angie McMahon’s Piano Salt EP is out Friday, October 2.

LA singer-songwriter Jensen McRae will also join McMahon for a re-stream of her Online Solo Piano Concert on October 7.